Ecocriticism in relation to the Southeast Asian region is relatively new. So far, John Charles Ryan’s Ecocriticism in Southeast Asia is the first book of its kind to focus on the region and its literature to give an ecocritical analysis: that volume compiles analyses of the eco-literatures from most of the Southeast Asian region, providing a broad insight into the ecological concerns of the region as depicted in its literatures and other cultural texts.
This edited volume furthers the study of Southeast Asian ecocriticism, focusing specifically on prominent myths and histories and the myriad ways in which they connect to the social fabric of the region. Our book is an original contribution to the expanding field of ecocriticism, as it highlights the mytho-historical basis of many of the region’s literatures and their relationship to the environment.
The varied articles in this volume together explore the idea of nature and its relationship with humans. The always problematic questions that surround such explorations, such as “why do we regard nature as ‘external’?” or “how is humankind a continuum with nature?”, emerge throughout the volume either overtly or implicitly. As Pepper (1993) points out, what Karl Marx referenced as ‘first’ or ‘external’ nature gave rise to humankind. But humanity “worked on this ‘first’ nature to produce a ‘second’ nature: the material creations of society plus its institutions, ideas and values.” (Pepper, 108). Thus, our volume constantly negotiates this field of ideas and belief systems, in diverse ways and in various cultures, attempting to relate them to the current ecological predicaments of ASEAN. It will likely prove an invaluable resource for scholars and students of ecocriticism and, more broadly, of Southeast Asian cultures and literatures.